LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XVII

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
‣ Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
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Turkish expedition against Ipsara—Character of the Ipsariots—Unhealthy climate of Mesolonghi—The author’s illness—Kindness of Lord Charles Murray—Character of the Greek peasantry—Their oppression by the capitani.

A few days after Trelawney’s departure, information arrived, that Colonel Stanhope was on his way to Zante, and that Ipsara, threatened by the Turkish fleet, had sent despatches to government, urgently imploring the assistance of their brother islanders. Of all Greek islanders, the Ipsariots were the most barbarous. Ever dreaded as pirates, they arose into notice only after the revolution. Their prosperity rose on the misfortunes of Chio and Aivali, of which they were the principal authors. After the destruction of the greater part of the population of that island, they refused giving up the vessels belonging to its wealthy merchants, and which they were in the habit of navigating. Not satisfied with this, they plundered every inhabitant of the above unfortunate places, who sought shelter on their island, or demanded exorbitant sums to transport them to some place of safety. How many, who could not satisfy their avidity, were left to fall preys to Turkish cruelty! Let me not be accused of exaggeration. Ask the hundreds of females, who were sold in the bazaars of Smyrna and Constantinople. Ask the destitute Chiots, wandering in the Morea from place to place, from island to island. Ask the Chiot merchants, who had time to fly to
Europe. All will enter into details which will make you shudder respecting their shameful and inhuman behaviour. And even the Ipsariots themselves, when brought by their own misfortunes, to reflection, attribute them chiefly to the just imprecations of those unfortunate beings they had so barbarously wronged.

The accusation made against Colonel Stanhope of his being the cause of the fall of Ipsara is as absurd as it is unprincipled. “Had he,” say the islanders, “authorised the delivery of a portion of the Loan, our fleet would, after being paid, have put to sea, and arrived in time to relieve that island.” Even granting that the colonel could not entirely exculpate himself, he could only be considered as the indirect cause of its fall; and the whole blame would justly fall on those, who, aware of the indelible shame, brought on their character by their sordid conduct, awkwardly endeavoured to render another responsible for their vices and crimes. Had not, in fact, the Hydriots and Spezziots been governed by mercenary feelings as they were; had their souls been in the smallest degree alive to the voice of patriotism, could they have lent a deaf ear to the entreaties of so many thousands of their brethren? and could they have calculated with so much indifference on the prospect of their ruin? If the sailors had refused to depart without money in advance, could not Conduriotti, Tombasi, Botasi, or any of the other wealthy primates, in a moment so urgent, draw from their exhaustless coffers the small sum requisite? It was not a sacrifice they were called upon to make but a loan, which they were sure of receiving back on the first payment of the money then at Zante. Could they not imitate Lord Byron’s conduct, who a few months before, when it was uncertain yet whether a loan
could be negotiated, had lent to the fleet no less than twenty thousand dollars? Indeed, one might be induced to credit the opinion, then prevalent, in Greece, that the islanders secretly wished for the humiliation of the Ipsariots, with whom they had ever been on terms almost amounting to enmity. It is difficult, however, for any one who has not lived among them, to imagine how great an envy, and how bitter a hatred subsist between the Spezziots and the Hydriots even to this very day.

Mesolonghi, which at every time of the year is a very unhealthy spot, becomes remarkably so at the approach of summer. Its outskirts and even its interior, as before observed, are during the winter rains converted into one immense morass; and when the waters dry up, the effluvia arising from so extensive a marshy surface, occasion not only intermittents of the worst description, but putrid disorders. The number of my patients, affected with typhus, was extraordinary. Unhabituated to the climate, and continually exposed to the contagion, I did not fail to be attacked myself by the same disorder. Tormented by its worst symptoms, the horrors of which cannot be conveyed to the mind by any description, I lay on a feverish bed, watched negligently by a mercenary servant; who, considering me an assured prey, anxiously expected the moment I should expire, to possess himself of the few articles in my possession. A long martyrized sufferer, I earnestly implored the parting stroke.

While in that cruel intermediate state between life and death, as it were, a stranger enters my apartment, approaches my bed, and gently pressing my hand, asks me in English how I feel; what makes me suffer most? He answers my complaints with the
most soothing words sympathy can dictate, and strives to cheer my drooping spirits. At the sound of his voice departed hope returned to animate me. His benevolent looks reconciled me to life. The apparition of mercy’s sweetest angel could not have brought me more comfort than the presence of this benevolent stranger. As soon as my strength allowed me, I feebly asked him who he was, whom Providence seemed to have sent to my rescue? “I am,” answered he, “
Lord Charles Murray, a son of the Duke of Athol. I was informed on my arrival, of the sad situation in which you were. A countryman, friendless, dangerously ill, were to me sufficient titles of recommendation. I felt all the bitterness of your situation, having myself been once in the same condition. Till I see you recovered, depend upon it, I shall not depart from your bedside.” In fact during my protracted illness, regardless of the danger of contagion, day and night, this inestimable young man continued to attend me with an unremitting assiduity, and a care which even the fondest of mothers could scarcely show to a darling child. To his benevolence I owe my life!—and gratitude renders it a delightful task to pay this small tribute to his memory. How rare are similar instances of disinterested philanthropy in this cold world of egotism!

As soon as health allowed me, I was accompanied by Lord Charles Murray to Cerasovo, a small village four leagues distant from Mesolonghi. It is situated on an elevated position in that ridge of mountains which separate the fertile plains of Vrachori from those of Anatolico and Mesolonghi. It is called Zugo, and this name is given to the whole province. The balmy air of this village; its limpid, cool springs, its delightful walks amidst its majestic woods of chest-
nuts, the pleasant rides its smiling environs afford, contributed rapidly to improve my health. During the two months, I remained there, I availed myself of the opportunity to observe the habits and study the character of the Greek peasantry, in which it was impossible not to observe the manifold evils, which had arisen from the tyrannical administration under which they lived.

Generally speaking, the Greek peasants are intelligent, industrious, hardy, and indefatigable whenever their idol, money, is to remunerate their toils. Frugal, temperate in habits, economical, not to say parsimonious, inquisitive, suspicious, eager of knowledge, they possess all the rudiments, requisite to form excellent husbandmen. They are passionately fond too of every pursuit in the shape of trade. Clownish manners are seldom observed among them. They have grace, and something prepossessing in their mode of presenting themselves. They express themselves with fluency and harmony, very unlike any of our peasantry; and they soon become familiar with a stranger. On first meeting one they eye him attentively from head to foot, and direct their questions with great penetration and good sense.

The blindest superstition is sedulously propagated among them by the clergy; the belief in vampires, fascination, witches, &c. ,&c. is universal; and, in every sense of the word, they are buried in an idolatry as profound as that of their pagan forefathers.

The administration of this and of all villages, dispersed over the country, had suffered no alteration with the revolution, except that the Cogiabashi (elder) dealt now with the Greek capitano instead of the Turkish aga. The new chief, generally selected from among the most notorious highway-
robbers, instead of removing the yoke which pressed so hard on the neck of his countrymen, rendered it more insupportable. Formerly the raya could by artifice impose upon the indolent stupidity of the Turk, and withdraw himself momentarily from his tyranny. This was now become impossible; and what still more embittered the feelings of the Greek was, that, far from enjoying some compensation for the thousand evils and losses, the revolutionary war had occasioned, he saw his very brother changed into his despot. If the injustice of a spalu, or aga, were too evident, redress might often be obtained by complaining to the cadi or to the pasha; but now the oppressed saw no superior force to afford him protection against his oppressor. Escorted by a numerous train of his former companions, and other resolute fellows armed up to the teeth; the capitano travelled through his province, from village to village, levying arbitrary contributions and collecting tithes, under pretence of maintaining his troops; and dispensing justice to the highest bidder. Should any one, out of obstinacy or poverty, fail to pay the imposed sum, without further process, he was, ad terrorem, extended on the ground, whilst two of the most vigorous palichari alternately struck his posteriors with ponderous bludgeons, like men threshing corn; till he vociferated, that he had devised the means of procuring himself the money in question. Pecuniary punishments were those preferred by the capitani, when dispensing justice. I heard from one of them the following observation, which was long after repeated word for word by a pasha: “beat a Greek merely, he’ll forget the punishment with the smart; fine him, and he will never forget the loss of what is dearer to him than his heart’s blood; but that which will correct him best
of his faults, is to make him pay first, and then beat him into the bargain.” As long as the capitano continued to honour the village with his presence, he and his soldiers lived on the fatness of the land; the poor peasant’s flock, poultry-yard, and cellar, daily feeling the effects of their revels.